CATESOL Position Statement on the Role of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Public School Grades K-12


California continues to be the primary arrival or settlement point for many immigrant children. They and other limited English proficient (LEP) children, with their diverse language needs, are legally entitled to a quality public school education. California's K-12 public schools must provide English language instruction such as ESL and bilingual approaches, which will give these students equal access to the core curriculum.


  1. The State of California must recognize the diversity within the K-12 LEP population. Members of this population differ in:
    • age
    • cultural and linguistic backgrounds
    • exposure to and knowledge of English
    • use of English in the home, school, and community
    • previous formal education
    • number of years in the United States

  2. The State of California must meet the diverse educational needs of K-12 LEP students. Such needs include ESL and primary language instruction in order to:
    • become English proficient
    • achieve academic success
    • become contributing citizens and taxpayers
    • participate fully in the state's increasingly technological and global economy
    • become lifelong learners


  1. The State of California must provide LEP students access to quality K-12 education equal to that of their native English-speaking peers. Such access must be based on appropriate evaluation which includes:
    • entrance, achievement, exit and follow-up assessment
    • assessment of literacy and oral proficiencies in English and the student's primary language
    • English and primary language assessment tests normed on non-native speakers of English
    • other appropriate assessments, such as academic performance and motivation

  2. LEP students must have access to daily English language development instruction either through ESL or bilingual programs which:
    • are appropriate to the students' oral and literacy proficiencies in English and primary language
    • are taught by certified bilingual teachers, language development specialists, or teachers trained in second language methodologies

  3. LEP students must have access to content instruction across the curriculum equal to that of their native English-speaking peers. Instruction should:
    • be at students' appropriate academic and linguistic level
    • promote academic achievement in the core curriculum


LEP students must be served by a quality program. Such programs must:
    • be designed specifically to meet the diverse needs of learners whose first language is not English
    • accommodate the differences in the length of time needed to learn English for both social and academic purposes
    • be articulated with programs for native English speakers
    • provide opportunities for positive interaction among all students regardless of linguistic and cultural background
    • be staffed by faculty appropriately credentialed and adequately trained to work with linguistically and culturally diverse students
    • include incentive-based training for all staff concerning the cultural and linguistic needs of LEP students


Local school boards and the state must commit substantial funds on a continuing basis to guarantee access to quality LEP programs.